Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My next place of residence

So, I am moving to Texas. 

I have mentioned this several times, but today I need to discuss it with you all. Mostly I feel the need to tell you about my new city, El Paso. 

El Paso is where Fort Bliss is located, and anybody who has been in the Army has no doubt heard something along the lines of, “Ft. Bliss: ha! Oxymoron!” Therefore you can imagine my state of mind was somewhat devastated on finding out where my next home was going to be. I mean, El Paso is basically Mexico, and I certainly never imagined myself living in Mexico. Plus, I heard all the horror stories. I’m still hearing them (for instance: all the internet/cable providers apparently suck, the rainy season can cause major floods and shut the city down, there are wind storms, you need blackout curtains to block out the floodlights on the border fence, etc.), and some things I already know for a fact, such as I will NOT HAVE A TRADER JOE’S (it’s funny how it only takes 2 years for a delightful little all-natural grocery store to become indispensable in your life) and NO GOOD COFFEE (sorry, folks, Starbucks will do in a pinch but it is not good coffee). 

But once I got over my initial freak-out and gave El Paso a chance, I realized it probably won’t be so bad and heck, I might even like it! At any rate, I am going into it with a positive attitude. And since most people, like me until a few months ago, really know nothing at all about El Paso, I think everyone needs a post full of the interesting and non-negative things I’ve been gathering about it since I know you all care about me and where I end up in this Army adventure. 

* First off, since very few people seem to even know where it’s located, here’s a handy-dandy map:
From July 27, 2011

* It's in the desert, but look--there are mountains, and they're actually IN the city! The highest peak is North Franklin Mountain, at 7,192 ft.
From July 27, 2011

* It is the sixth largest city in Texas and the 19th largest city in the United States. It's also the 2nd safest city in the U.S. despite being right on the border of one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico.

* It is the only major Texas city in the Mountain Time zone, but TV broadcasting is matched to the Central Time zone. 

* The climate consists of very hot, dry summers (ie, almost no humidity) and mild, dry winters. But sometimes it snows in the winter since the city elevation is 3,800 ft! Average rainfall is 9.4 inches, most of which occurs from July to September in the form of thunderstorms. The sun shines an average of 302 days a year. It's very windy and dust-stormy in the spring.

* 75% of the population is Mexican.

* The movie Man on Fire with Denzel Washington was filmed in El Paso.

* About 2 hours away is a place called Elephant Butte, which is New Mexico's largest lake and biggest water recreation area. I intend to go there as often as possible. It has 200 miles of shoreline.

That's all I have time for now. But expect more to come once I get down there and start exploring. 

Movers come on Monday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recipe and blog reviews

I felt like a total lazy bum today. The only productive things I accomplished were some laundry, vacuuming, and making dinner. I feel like I should be doing something to prepare for the move (which is in 3 weeks...why am I not freaking out yet??), but I honestly don't know what I should be doing. Movers will supposedly be here around the 1st of August, so it's too early to start packing the things we want to take in the car with us. I've already gone through each room and thrown away bags and bags of junk. I've scrubbed floors and cleaned behind and under things (in preparation for the extensive final clean before we turn in our keys). So I can't think of anything else right now!

Anyway, I spent most of the day reading a new blog I found. Actually, two blogs by the same blogger. I first discovered Bakin' and Eggs, which is all recipes. There was much yumminess to be found, and I actually tried two of the recipes today: Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies and Spiced-chicken.

The brownies were definitely delicious. I am not usually a huge brownie fan, and honestly only made them because they use so much baking chocolate which I happen to have a huge stock of in the pantry (thanks to receiving leftover Christmas Nestle stuff from the store that we didn't sell). But they were a very good use of the baking chocolate! They are super moist and chocolatey but not over-the-top rich. Andrew really liked them. I didn't take a picture because they were not photographing well on my crappy camera and besides, Jen's picture is better anyway.

The spiced chicken...oh my word. DELICIOUS. I bake chicken pieces a lot with various spice/herb combinations and it is always good, so I was not expecting to be blown away by this recipe (despite the glowing testimonials on two different blogs) but was merely hoping for a little something different. Instead, I was indeed blown away! I don't know what it is about this spice combination, but it is incredible. It only took half an hour to make and I also discovered that my big stainless steel frying pan does just fine put in the oven as the recipe calls for (I've seen this technique a lot but have always been afraid my cookware wasn't of a high enough quality). Anyway, it was so good I ate two thighs because I knew it wouldn't be as good or crispy left over, and my tummy was rather uncomfortably full. But it was worth it.

From Blogger Pictures
From Blogger Pictures

 I'm going to copy the recipe here so it's easier.
Note: I used only a sprinkling of chili powder instead of the 2 tsp called for since I'm not a big fan of chili powder except in actual chili. And yes, I am the cooking enthusiast who has things like cumin, coriander, and cinnamon on hand at all times in her spice cabinet. If you don't, well, remedy that. You won't be sorry. ;-)

Spiced Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, April 2000)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the pan
2 bone-in chicken breasts or 2 leg/thigh combos
1/2 cup white wine, chicken broth or water
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and pat dry chicken.
Stir together spices, salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Rub all over chicken. Heat another two tablespoons of oil in an ovenproof heavy skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes (3 minutes per side).
Transfer skillet to middle rack of oven and roast, skin side up, until just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. The internal temperature should read 160 for breasts and 170 for legs or thighs. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add water, wine or stock and deglaze, scraping up brown bits. Let reduce for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour pan juices over chicken and serve.
Yield: 2 servings

Jen's other blog is called Peanut Butter Runner. I've been reading her archives all day, and I think she's a new inspiration to me. For one thing, I've really been wanting to start doing yoga regularly and her blog makes me even more determined. Also, I love her balanced approach to eating and exercise. She definitely eats way healthier than me, but I love the fact that she loves desserts and is not ashamed of it. I get irritated with blogs or super healthy people who never let themselves have dessert or re-do every yummy recipe until it's devoid of anything "unhealthy" (and therefore becomes un-yummy). I like that she avoids sugar substitutes and low-fat processed food items...those are a pet peeve of mine. (Sugar-free and fat-free items are NOT HEALTHY, people!!) Anyway, she proves that having a sweet tooth and being healthy and in shape are not mutually exclusive. Check out her blog if you're needing some inspiration in looking great and living a healthy, moderate lifestyle!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Photo Catch-up

I am the type of person who takes a random photo, thinks, "I'm going to make an awesomely creative blog post about this," and then promptly forgets about it until unloading the camera and finding a sprinkling of said random photos that are no longer worth a blog post or putting on Facebook. Oh well. But I do feel like the pictures should make an appearance somewhere.

From Blogger Pictures
Last month we went to our first Roller Derby bout, featuring the two Ft. Lewis teams. It wasn't quite as intense as the scenes in Whip It, haha, but it was still fun date night material. It's certainly the only "sport" we've ever enjoyed together!

From Blogger Pictures
We finally figured out the trick for our charcoal grill! A fireplace starter. =) Since then we've had flawless grilling. These teriyaki kabobs we made were delicious!

From Blogger Pictures
I made cookies to send to my two dads for Father's Day.

From Blogger Pictures
I also sent some cookies to a friend who was having a hard week. I liked this flower cutter!

From Blogger Pictures
These are my two favorite cleaning products. There's no point buying any others since they clean everything! I heartily recommend them for all your cleaning needs. ;-)